Editor/Daughter’s Note: During the Second World War my dad lived in occupied Denmark, and moved around the country working on various farms (and occasionally getting into trouble with the German soldiers).
I do not remember the name of the farmer at Haderslev but he was from south Slesvig.
In 1920, after the First World War, the southern half of Slesvig voted to join Germany because of the large German population living in that area after the Danish-Prussian war of 1864. At the beginning of the Second World War my employer defected to Denmark and married into a German-speaking family north of that ‘new’ border.This guy was tall, nearly 7 feet, and we could always spot him coming out to the fields because of his height. He was said to have charmed the farmer’s only daughter and was heir to the throne. He never did much work, and did not have to, there was enough accumulated wealth by his wife’s ancestors.
Their diet was strange to us northerners. They smoked all their meat and fish, and when they had a family reunion with family from across the border in Germany, it was one course of meat and potatoes, and half a dozen courses of sweets and cakes after. Where I was from, the islands of Fyn, it was the other way around, half a dozen courses of various meat and fish including game meats and one delicious dessert to finish it off.
Our employer seemed to have absolute faith in us Danish farmhands and later I understood why, as our skill level as teamsters was greater than that of German-speaking farmhands. Possibly this was because many of the best German farmhands had left for better-paid jobs as translators with the German military. The German minority was fluent in both Danish and German, a bonus as the Danish language must be one of the world’s worst to learn.Being summer, there was no gymnastics but a ragtag handball team was organized. It was rough playing and sometimes hard fighting on that team.
I remember one fellow who had worked temporarily in Rostock, Germany, the first city to be levelled by allied bombers. He refused to clean up rotting bodies in the graveyard and was beaten in jail until he agreed to do it.
One time after a game he was knocked to the ground by a much bigger opponent but he was up again like a spring and pummeled his opponent into the wire fence, not giving him any chance to fight back.
The Lucky Pub
Haderslev was a garrison city with large buildings erected in the First World War for the larger army that Denmark had had at that time. When the Germans occupied Denmark they took it over and the streets were literally full of soldiers everywhere.
Once I was lippy to a German soldier who had forced me off the sidewalk. I got chased down the street and coming to a pub, dashed in the door intending to exit out the back door.
Lucky for me the pub was a hangout for Danish militia and off-duty police, all unarmed but in fighting trim. They were playing cards at all the tables and I sat down beside a player and told him about my problem with the German soldier.
“Not to worry,” he said, “we will fix them if they try anything.”
A few minutes later an armed German patrol appeared, all in helmets and with fixed bayonets. They marched in single file and walked straight ahead like puppets not looking at anybody and walked out the same way they came in.
The card players completely ignored them but as my newfound friend explained to me the police would be ready to disarm them as in such tight quarters; they did not have a chance. Funny though, it was like watching the comedy series ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ .
I also experienced bombing as British Planes came in one night and attempted to cross in to Germany but were repelled by the German flak or aircraft guns that were placed along the old Dannevirke wall across the peninsula.
The planes had to unload the bombs to get back to England and some two thousand bombs were unloaded on the countryside, and the experience was similar to a very big earthquake.